Do you really know what your teen is up to?


It grieves me to have to write this sad story, yet I hope that it will open the eyes of many a trusting and doting parent. I would like to mention that my only qualification is that of "mom" and therefore I offer no references. 

The story begins about six months ago with those little white lies, the type that has "teenager" stamped all over it. "Teenagers will be teenagers", I said to myself. No need to throw a tantrum. An apt, yet light punishment was meted out and that was the end of that.

One morning, not long after, I was received a call informing me that my teen had snuck out, fallen asleep at her friend's house and was subsequently caught out. Being grounded until the end of the holidays was her decision. Bring on the boredom and sorry face - after two weeks of solitary confinement. All resistance crumbled and I let her off the hook.  

Regretting decisions

This decision came back to bite me. Hard. My teen immediately took advantage and organised a sleepover at a friends’ house. Thinking back, I should have given her a GPS because she got completely lost. Unbeknown to me, instead of landing up at point A, the gang took public transport to points J and K.

Let me just mention that the house rule is that "sleepover parents" are usually contacted to verify details of said sleepover. In this case however, I was promised the parent's details as soon as my teen arrived. Once again, clever teenage planning led to the details being sent at midnight. Long story short, I did phone the parent the next day to confirm my misgivings.

At this point I was on the brink of mixing pills and alcohol to get rid of the nervous tic in my eye. I donned my Sherlock Holmes cap and started investigating. The most obvious place to start was her cellphone. Here I found photos and conversations that shocked me to the core.

Allow me to paint a clearer picture for you. 

Finding shocking evidence
BBM, Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Email accounts, SMS messaging apps, phone logs, galleries and photos. You name the app, I checked them all. By nature, I am suspicious, so I checked the backups (some kids don’t realise that such a file exists). If I was shocked previously, you can imagine my state after this! The nervous tic was spreading to the other eye by now.

I urge you to check your children's phones on a daily basis. My children may no longer delete any conversations and if they do, I take their phones away. Right now you're saying, "But what about my child's privacy?". Well, if your child is under age, should there be such a thing as privacy?

I cheekily chatted to my daughter's friends on her phone after identifying myself to them. If a young man proceeded to use foul language or mention what he would like to do with out of bound body parts, I replied that he should refrain from using such language and respect my daughter as I was sure a court of law would have a field day with his message. This seemed to work quite well and several friends blocked her from their chats. This also seemed to calm my tic somewhat.

The details
But, let's get on with the story. Horrifying details emerged from her cellphone.  

• I discovered that my 15 year old's virginity had been, to say the least, compromised.

• Proof of nights out at various public places and not only in our immediate vicinity, were identified through some of the chats. To back this up, I found photos of my teen and others not only smoking, but drinking and snogging.

• Pictures of my naked teen were found in videos and photos. I again reminded my children that taking naked pictures of oneself, under the age of 18, was a criminal offence as one would then be in possession of child pornography. Sending this media to others would also be seen as criminal as they would then be dealing in child pornography. If the authorities then decided to close in on the "ring", anyone who had forwarded these photos would also be found guilty. Quite a serious allegation don’t you think? But these kids just don’t seem to see the consequences of their actions. I made a promise to my children that should I find just one more such photo, we would be visiting the nearest police station to handle the situation.

• These kids were smoking dagga, my child included. After watching a documentary on drugs in South Africa, it came to light that dagga is fast becoming a “lifestyle drug” amongst teens in this country.

• A Twisp is of course a must have accessory. My child loves fashion! This is an electronic cigarette device that is filled with different flavoured liquid. Is this a healthier option to smoking? Apparently not.

• Quotes that are sent on cellphones may look completely innocent.  For instance, "Adults make your life difficult" or "Remember that I follow my own path, I am my own person."  This doesn't sound too serious and just like you, I teach my children to steer away from peer pressure, be a leader and stand out in the crowd. But this is different. Someone is telling our children to be disobedient and rebellious toward family norms.

• Did you know that in 2013, "selfie" became an official word in the Oxford dictionary? A "selfie" is a picture that you take of yourself.  You even get selfie camera accessories in order to take better pictures. Our kids take photos of themselves at every turn. Some photos on my teen's phone prompted me to Google the facial and hand expressions. The expressions included sticking out the tongue, just slightly, two fingers for the peace sign and two fingers, each on either side of the mouth with tongue protruding just slightly. I discovered that most kids use these signs very innocently. Thank goodness! But do yourself a favour and make these signs in the mirror. There are definitely sexual connotations which will spark a response from the wrong people.

In ending, short of sending my child to a priest for an exorcism, I did not know what to do.  A friend gave me some very good advice and I may take it to heart. Instead of psychiatrists who delve into the past, I will ask my child whether she might visit a life coach who will give her ideas on how to form her future so that she walks on a path of success instead of a path of destruction. I am sure that this will, along with unconditional love, patience, understanding, lots of prayer and a few nervous tics, help my beautiful daughter to become the butterfly she deserves to be.

Have you discovered what your teen does in private? Were you shocked or pleasantly surprised?

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